The Portable Advertisement by David Biddle

Author David Biddle
Author David Biddle

One very important inexpensive marketing tool indie bloggers don’t talk about enough is the simultaneous publishing of both electronic and paperback versions of books – ebooks and pbooks.

A study by The Pew Center indicates that 19% of adults in this country now have tablet computers and 19% have dedicated ereaders. These numbers are up from about 5% in 2010. That’s remarkable.

But these statistics still mean that the bulk of the population doesn’t own technology designed to optimize the digital book reading experience. For this reason, indie writers should seriously consider making their next novel available as a paperback as well as an ebook. Such a move expands the reading market significantly. There are dozens of Print-On-Demand (POD) companies out there offering a variety of support services (to get started, check out one list here) to support indie writers who are so inclined.

I chose Amazon’s CreateSpace option. It cost me $10 to register my book’s ISBN; about $30 for two separate galley proofs; and, then, $25 for the extra marketing service CreateSpace offers to extend my title into their system with other resellers.

It took more work to set up my book to print out as a paperback – a lot more work. But in the end, it was totally worth it. Below are seven lessons I learned about having both ebook and pbook options for sale simultaneously.

1. Your local bookstore won’t sell your ebook
Your neighborhood bookstore owner is an astounding marketing hub who can’t make money off your ebook. Besides simply selling your book, they can set up readings, let you post table cards, and may even highlight you in blogs and/or newsletters.

2. Amazon’s system is so seamless
Within a week of posting my CreateSpace paperback to Amazon’s network, it was synched with the ebook version – comments and background included. Making both options available certainly demonstrates professionalism and commitment to all readers.

3. Pbook Giveaways are still a standard, palpable marketing tool
Any number of reader and book networks offer giveaway promo options for authors. Most of these groups want to create something special for their members. Signed author’s copies are usually the norm.

4. Paperback markets are independently active
This is probably true of other POD operations, but CreateSpace’s expanded marketing and distribution option allows dozens of book distributors to place your paperback in their catalogs.

5. A pbook at $15.99 helps reinforce the $2.99 option for an ebook better than anything else around
Even if you only sell 30 or 40 copies of a paperback version of your book, a lot of folks who might otherwise have an excuse not to buy your work (because they don’t have, for instance, a Kindle or iPad), see the amazing savings of ebooks and take advantage of them laughing all the way to the bank.

6. You can make more money with a CreateSpace paperback than an ebook
A $15.99 paperback yields about $4.00 in royalties through Amazon and $6.00 through CreateSpace. Ebook royalties (at $2.99) are just a tad over $2.00. I’ve sold about half as many pbooks as ebooks and made a bit more in royalties.

7. Paperbacks are moveable advertisements
I took the paperback edition of my book to a family gathering six weeks after the ebook had been posted at Amazon. The book got passed around, fondled enthusiastically, and pronounced “cool” and “awesome.” No one in my extended family had yet purchased my ebook. Within a week, all the family readers had either ordered a copy of the paperback or downloaded the ebook version. Seeing and holding a real, tangible version of a novel seems to still be pretty important to a lot of people.


I spent about $65 to publish and distribute a paperback version of my novel. That’s like an advertising contract with an indie book website. The other day, I bumped into a friend on the train. He was reading my book. Every time he opens my novel on his commute, there’s a good chance people are going to see the bright red cover and the title to the book. You never know where your next reader is going to come from. Success in the book world is a long-term proposition.

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David Biddle is the author of the novel Beyond the Will of God as well as several collections of short stories. His column, “Talking Indie,” will be available online this fall at Find his thoughts on writing, literature, music and a lot more at his blog and on his Author Page.

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10 thoughts on “The Portable Advertisement by David Biddle”

  1. Good post, thanks. Strongly agree with this, also because I’m a stick in the mud and to me a book isn’t a real book unless it’s available in paperback. I use Lulu, who offer a free ISBN and distribution to Amazon. The only minimum cost you have is one single proof copy.

  2. To me, there’s nothing better than proofreading hard copy – and a POD proof allows you that luxury. Createspace also has a free ISBN # option, and I found it easier to format for that than for Kindle or Smashwords. People also like seeing hard copy books at events – so it’s really a must for me. Thanks for your thoughts, David – I’m a huge advocate of killing trees to make books. 😉

  3. I’m still in the beginning stages and haven’t gotten my book published yet, but I’m working on it! And I agree wholeheartedly with you…you need to have the best of both worlds. Ebook for those that like the convenience, and paperback for those that like the tangible. Either way, I will make a profit, so it’s all good. :o) Thanks for the great article!

  4. Maybe I’m setting my pbook prices too low. I always put out a paperback version, but typically I sell only one or two copies to friends who don’t have e-readers yet. I try to keep the dead-tree price as low as I can — but I never thought of the contrasting prices *helping* to sell my e-books. Hmm. Food for thought. Thanks, David!

  5. Great post. I agree. I am so glad I decided to do both. I managed to get my books into my cities library system and also have sold many copies to school libraries. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without producing pback copies.

  6. I do both- and publish through CS. Living in the middle of nowhere (this is becoming a real joke now) I don’t sell hardly any paperbacks. But, I have them for all my novels, so if anyone says they don’t have an ereader, I can tell them they can buy it on Amazon. Most of my sales are ebook, and I’m not complaining. I do keep a small stock of paper at home, just in case I get asked to do a signing or something.

  7. I too, live in the middle of nowhere, southern Iowa, which is about as rural as you can get. I self published my first book in 2010 and two more since(murder mystery/romance type stories). I’ve sold over 3500 copies locally. I give the vendors a hefty share of the income and still net a little over $5 per book. It’s a great way to build a local following and generate some real income while you’re waiting on your ebooks to be discovered by the entire world. This is an excellent post and needs to be shared with the thousand upon thousands of new authors who are giving their books away for free or selling them for 99 cents which is almost the same as free. Now on top of this, think about selling your work as audiobooks.

  8. I apologize for not checking up on comments from this piece. I’m glad it made sense more or less to you all. On the “nothing beats proofreading hard copy” that Kat brings up, I think I can safely claim that after about 30 readings of my first novel, Beyond the Will of God, there are no typos…and that’s definitely from reading through two whole versions of galley proofs before it went out to market as a paperback.

    Also, after reading about the new On Demand Book partnerships to place POD machines at Kodak Kiosks and retail stores, this issue should gain major status for any writer who has their shit together. I’m trying to get ODB to pay attention to me on this. Imagine being able to say something like, “Oh, yeah, just head over to Target and you can pick up a copy of my book for $12.99.” I’m assuming you’d be able to order online and then just grab it when you go in to shop for Halloween stuff or whatever.

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